EXCLUSIVE Q&A: George Dixon, Strategy Director, Mobsta

After more than seven years at the mega-agency MediaCom, George Dixon has turned his attention to the new Wild West of mobile; geolocation and its leading exponent Mobsta. Here he explains the need for regulation and why the industry has to wise up and deliver on its undoubted promise.

mobstaMost of the readers of the blog are highly tech-savvy, but might not be aware of the challenges of geolocation and Mobsta’s position in the ecosystem. Pray tell us more.

We are a UK-based tech company working exclusively in the UK with US technology company Placecast and have a highly accurate location-powered product working with some of the UK’s biggest brands. Advertisers want to know now more than ever where their advertising £s are going. Demystifying technology is part of this as ensuring their media spend is served to their target audience in the right place and moment. We have recently demonstrated the accuracy of our technology and data at tracking visitors into store locations, proving that we can deliver on the promise of location.

But, rather like the early mobile games and advertising days, it appears there are some charlatans out there.

That’s unfortunately true. We believe our tech platform delivers on its promises of accurate and scalable location targeting and delivery. But we need more regulation in the industry so it can winnow out any companies that promise targets they will never deliver. A shake-out is definitely needed.

So it’s about delivering true geolcation results to brands that they can trust?

Now more than ever clients want to understand where their audience is and what they are doing. They need to prove the effect of their media beyond clicks and site visits. We can demonstrate the effect of a media spend on driving actual visits into stores
. By offering the most accurate solution in the market as well as being able to verify location data to demonstrate its accuracy.

So what does the product actually do?

Our location platform tracks consumer’s movements based on GPS signals passed from their phones (all done anonymously). This allows us to understand whether they are in market for a new car, seen on a BMW forecourt, regular cinema goers or frequent shoppers at Tesco.

Using this data, we deliver advertising campaigns in the optimum place and moment then monitor the location behaviour of those delivered ads to see if it leads them to a different store or location in the future i.e. to visit an Audi dealer after BMW or try Sainsbury having been to Tesco in the past.

So explain to me as if I’m Joe Public, not a highly respected tech writer.

All mobile phones give off location signals when they are being used. The signals give information about where someone is and how often they go there. Mobsta’s technology allows us to monitor these signals to create relevant groups of people to target for advertising. Such as new film releases to people who frequently go to the cinema or offers in their favourite shops.

Mobsta began as a media strategy company, so how did you get here?

Our founders are highly experienced media professionals who were keen to take advantage of the growing interest in mobile advertising. You’re right in saying Mobsta started as a mobile strategy company helping monetise products and publishers’ inventory. Location was one of those products, at the time with the unique ability to target people based on their current location according to the GPS signals shared by their phones.

So give me some numbers.

We track over 45 million users each month in the UK, 500 million globally to build audiences and gather insights. This is already a $2 billion business and those numbers are only going to increase.

Walk me through the use experience.

It’s very simple; a consumer doesn’t have to do anything. They opt in to share their location when they use apps on their phone. Their data is collected anonymously, no individual information is stored. As they use their phone location relevant adverts would be sent to their phone as they browse different apps.

I understand you recently came top in a survey based on the major geolocation players?

We believe we have proved the quality of our data and platform with two tests in the last 12 months, one in the US and one in the UK. Each of which we came out on top showing key silo and verticals. We are confident we have the most accurate platform in the market and are really proud of our performance in recent tests.

Where is the team based and what’s your funding history?

We are based in London, our tech is based in San Francisco whilst we have smaller offices in New York, Amsterdam and are working with partners in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
 As for funding, we are privately owned, but we may take seed, Series A etc when the time and opportunity is right.

Well, now my readers and I know more about the growing importance of geolocation. Thanks for sharing and coming in, George.

Thanks for having me.

Geolocation, geolocation, geolocation?… Mobsta leads the way

London-based location targeting company Mobsta has come top in an independent ranking of geolocation providers in the UK, conducted by MediaCom, one of the world’s leading agencies.


MobstaThe mobile world has undergone several transformations since the mobile phone went mass market and at every stage of that development there have been Wild West situations.

Rather like a wagon train being surrounded by First Nation Americans, it has always been a business for explorers and not all of them honourable.

Mobile advertising, mobile games, mobile technologies… they’ve all attracted hucksters and bullshitters and not the new game in town is geolocation. An ecosystem is emerging, but there are no real regulations and standards for brands and agencies to refer to.

Fortunately, things are changing for the better and a recent independent ranking of geolocation providers in the UK. run by MediaCom, which can across three client brands, finally offers some form of yardstick.

The report was designed to determine the validity of the claims of many of the companies that they offer the best reach and accuracy and winner was… London-based location targeting company Mobsta.

Out of the nine participants, Mobsta, which employs Placecast’s programmatic technology, came first in both scale and accuracy tests. Out of the 15 providers were originally invited to participate in the test, nine companies declined to take part. I wonder why THAT was, maybe they shouldn’t have made it into the wagon train anyway.

“There are many companies who offer compelling targeting and measurement solutions but it’s difficult to know whose story is real and how accurately they can deliver on location targeting.

“We wanted to have confidence in our recommendations to clients, so created this test to help us cut through the claims, and offer definitive advice on how accurate hyper-local targeting is,” said Owain Wilson, Data Strategy Director at MediaCom.

Mobsta is a specialist in location targeting and audience profiling techniques and has the exclusive rights to the Placecast mobile data management platform (DMP) that aggregates location data and user behaviour across different devices in the physical world.

The company translates it into audience segments that can be targeted through mobile advertising campaigns via its Demand Side Platform (DSP). The platform delivers a understanding of the relationship between users and locations over time, enabling them to make smarter marketing decisions.

“With the ever-increasing use of mobile advertising and changes in format, we see a real opportunity for brands to use geolocation and welcome efforts like these to help brands navigate the crowded market place. Third party validation is key and we hope that this study will encourage more brands to invest in the technology to improve their campaigns,” concluded George Dixon, Strategy Director, Mobsta

Barclaycard’s contactless Pay @ Pump ends beer queues

Finally FinTech launches a product that will make a real difference, a self-pouring contactless payment beer pump! No more waiting at the bar.


pumpBarclaycard has launched a contactless, self-pouring beer pump prototype Pay @ Pump.

The prototype has been designed to help bars and pubs reduce queuing time for customers buying drinks during busy periods such as Christmas.

The innovation was brewed up in response to one in four Brits getting the “bar humbugs” when it takes too long to get served. The brand new Pay @ Pump prototype lets consumers purchase a pint of ale in three quick and easy steps – order, pay and pour – that can be carried out in just 60 seconds.

As somebody who is prepared to commit murder when waiting more than a minute at a bar, especially at a gig, this is the first FinTech product that interests me in the slightest. According to Barclaycard, the average waiting time at the bar during the festive party season is 12 minutes per order. TWELVE. FUCKING. MINUTES.

The contactless beer pump turns purchasing a pint of beer into three quick and easy steps – “order, pay and pour” – that can be carried out by the customer in just 60 seconds.

How Pay @ Pump works:
1. Order: select your pint of ale via the Pay @ Pump touchscreen
2. Pay: touch your contactless card or device at the base of the pump
3. Pour: place your pint glass at the base of the pump, triggering the drink to dispense automatically following successful payment

Ordering a drink, of course, is a work of art involving flirting, catching the barperson’s eye without being too aggressive and intelligent use of elbows and body space. With pay @ pump, we may also be seeing the end of the barman and the barmaid as we know it. That’s not good. You can’t talk to a pump when you’re lonely and the bar/pub is empty.

However, given the continual rise of ‘touch and go’ payments across the UK, with figures from the latest Barclaycard Contactless Spending Index revealing that spending leapt 173% by value and 112% by volume in the year to the end of October 2016, this can only be the future.

At present, the product is only in the prototype stage and was trialled earlier this week at Henry’s Café and Bar in London’s Piccadilly. Moreover, ale is the recommended product, rather than lager, which is more heavily carbonated and prone to producing a larger head on the drink.

Decent idea, let’s see hope it takes off. Cheers!

US road trip diary: Day Two – At the (flooded) crossroads

crossroadsAfter last night’s shenanigans with the Old Bill, today was going to be more Walt Whitman than Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady, so I went to search for nature, not danger.

Back through Arkansas, no choice, last night’s life-changer, so onwards to Hot Springs to, well (boom-boom), jump in a hot spring.

Different, boring, a town built by the Mafia in the 1920s, all glitz and bling and natural hot water. The Boston Red Sox used to train there, gone to seed, but the only US national park that runs through a town, and the smallest one in America.

Disappointed, Spring Break, town full, got back on the road to Memphis, decided to change plans and go to Clarksville, Mississippi, the place where Bessie Smith died in 1927, went the very scenic route, crossed the mighty, engorged Mississippi river (never seen it before) and headed for the alleged home of the Blues, where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for music at the crossroads, only to die aged 19.

A town called Clarksville, flooded not by the Mississippi expanded, but the worst rain-storm in 140 years.

Arrived, expected schmaltz, but found glory, a town of benign, crazy people like that book about Savannah, Midnight in the House of Good and Evil or something like that.

Expected tourist New Orleans, but went to a renovated open air cinema, the Roxy where Ike Turner was a cashier and Sam Cooke played between movies. Unbelievable, if in Shoreditch, a $10 million project. Twelve people at the bar.

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Outside stage, at the back of the juke joint (American for shebeen), heard stories about Clarksville and Sam Cooke who was born there, asked where I could buy cigartettes, told the local grocery had closed a week before because the owner had been shot.

Then went to Red’s, a blues bar where Robert Plant and Keith Richard came, but never played. There were 30 people there and the band was amazing.

Clarksville is one of the fifth poorest boroughs in America, all 300 kids (95% black) failed the national algebra test, automation destroyed industry in 1970s, but people are coming back, population up to 20,000 now, up from 18,000 two years ago.

Like Hackney before Hackney was even Hackney, the King of Foreclosures, a three-bedroom mansion downtown costs $60,000. It was one of the best nights of my music life, and I was almost crying with happiness watching proper legacy, fucked-up blues.

I’m not bothering with New Orleans on this trip now, I would only compare it with the magic of Clarksville, ripe for hipsters, perfect for students of the blues.

Might pop into Graceland tomorrow on the way to rest up for some time writing in the Smoky Mountains in Tennesse, but today was as much Moriarty/Cassady as it was Whitman, but it also had Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke and the delta Blues I thought were now homogenised. It was a truly magical place, Clarksville, I implore you to go there.

I’m so privileged to have been there at this time, it will soar from here, mark my motherfucking, happy, happy, happy words.

Is Reykjavik the smartest city in Europe?

The City of Reykjavik will be the first city in Europe to use the Social Progress Index to map and improve the wellbeing of all its residents

ReykjavikThe Social Progress Index is a flexible tool that uses specific indicators to measure social and environmental outcomes—such as shelter, health, lifespan, and education—and serves as a complementary measure to traditional economic measures such as employment and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It has been used to map social performance in a variety of places, including 161 countries at the national level, the entire European Union at the NUTS2 level, cantons in Costa Rica, municipalities in Brazil and cities in Colombia.

“Iceland is already a leading country in the world on social progress, and we’re used to thinking that life is pretty good in Reykjavik.This new effort to map what is and is not working for people in different parts of our city will allow us to make sure that there is a chance for all residents to enjoy social progress,” said Dagur Eggertsson, Mayor of Reykjavik.

Creation of the new index for Reykjavik will include identifying local organizations across government, business, civil society, and academia to support research, use local understanding of Reykjavik’s unique characteristics to choose appropriate indicators, and commit to building on that new understanding to improve social progress across the city.

The Index’s methodology allows communities to use indicators that make sense in their local context, including those that directly impact government policy and areas where local businesses and civil society can better engage in activities that promote the health and wellness of its citizens.

The Social Progress Index for Reykjavik will be the first city-level use of the tool in Europe. The Social Progress Index has previously been used to examine social progress in different parts of the city of Bogota and Rio de Janeiro.

Its mission is to improve the lives of people around the world, particularly the poorest, by fostering research and knowledge-sharing on social progress and equipping leaders in business, government and civil society with new tools to guide policies and programs.